Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a type of server that gives users the ability to store data and files over the network instead of having it connected directly into the computer or device. Think of a NAS like a sort of cloud network that is private to your own network instead of the web. When using a NAS it is recommended to give it a hard connection to the network instead of a wireless connection in order to be as efficient as possible during file transfers and/or usage. The main purpose of a network attached storage is to provide a centralized and shared storage space for digital files that can be accessed over the networked instead of directly connecting the hard drive to each computer or device. Usually when you see NAS devices they contain multiple hard drives so it can be either fault tolerant or have redundancy and speed, which it will have depend on what the purpose of the NAS is and how it was configured by the user or IT. The easiest way to make a NAS over a network is by plugging in an external hard drive into the back of a router (assuming the router has a USB port). Though this is the easiest way it is not the most recommended way as the controls are very limited. Which is why we would recommend setting up an operating system called FreeNAS.
FreeNAS is a software that is open source and that runs based on a FreeBSD and the OpenZFS file system. This is an operating system that can be installed on virtually any hardware platform to share data over a network. FreeNAS is considered to be one of the simplest ways to create a centralized and easily accessible NAS solution. With FreeNAS there are literally several things that can be done such as setting up a RAID, Offsite Backup, Local Replication, File Sharing, FTP, includes a Web Interface, Remote Access, Permission Levels, Encryption, Several Different Plugins such as (BitTorrent (Sync), Bacula, Plex Media server, Transmission, HTPC Manager, etc.) You can even write your own plugin if that’s what is desired, and much more.
There are two ways FreeNAS can be set up one is via a dedicated computer that will always be running and installing FreeNAS on a thumb drive and loads it off that or the other is via a Virtual Environment which can be done either by Virtual Box or by VMWare. There really is no one size fits all solution when selecting which approach to take because each situation is different, and requirements are different. Once you load FreeNAS after you select your path you will be given an internal IP Address that you would need to put into your browser to access the Web GUI from another PC or if you are using a virtual machine then through the host browser. Once you go to the Web GUI you will need to go through the initial wizard which should be self-explanatory. During this process, you will be creating users and user groups for use later down the road. You will be setting up the hard drive(s) that will be used by the FreeNAS system. For the FreeNAS server to be discoverable in your file manager or explorer you must enable SMB. If SMB is not enabled Windows and MAC OSX will never be able to find it over the network. Once you have the basics up and running, we recommend you play around with it to see what you would like to change, add, configure differently. Keep in mind this is a very powerful system and there is a lot you can do with it. However, if you do not want to go through the hassle of setting everything up and configuring the computer you can purchase a premade system from their website based on which you need (Click here for Home, Click here for Business, Click here for Enterprise). Other than this there are several YouTube and other tutorials on how to set up FreeNAS from ground up that are much more detailed than this blog. The purpose of this blog was to explain what a NAS is and how it can benefit home and business users. Which should have been covered while explaining what NAS and FreeNAS are and their features. If there are any questions, feel free to reach out to us via our contact page.